Roots of the Pahapill family name / Notes on the Pahapills.

Known roots of the Pahapill family name reach back to 1645 (Note 1), when a man named TÕNNIS lived near the northern coast of Estonian island of Saaremaa, some 20 kilometers off Estonia's west coast, on the south shores of Gulf of Finland (Soome Laht), in the eastern part of Baltic Sea (Balti Meri). For a birds-eye view of the area, please click on the composite map: Baltic Sea Region, Root-home of the Pahapills.

Around Tõnnis homestead developed a village called "Pahapilli küla" (village of Pahapill). The village has retained its original name to this date and can be found on various maps of Saaremaa, e.g. the tourist map of Mustjala County (vald): Map of Mustjala. The “Pahapilli küla” is located in the east-central section of the county’s northern shores, about a kilometer south of points 6 and 7 on the map.

In the early days of life in Estonia, the indigenous people had no family name. A person was known by his or her first name and the name of the homestead or farm where he/she had been born, or by the name of his or her father. The process of giving family names to people in Estonia -- as elsewhere in the region at the time -- took a couple of centuries and was completed in the last half of nineteenth century. Usually, the lord of the manor, where the person worked, gave him his family name. Here, it should be pointed out that, at the time, much of the land in Estonia was "owned" by foreign landlords called “ mõisnik” in Estonian – usually the Baltic Germans, some by the Danes.

How the family name Pahapill came about is not fully known, but according to some word-by-mouth accounts (Note 2), it is derived from the German-Estonian word PACHKPILL, the name given to Tõnnis by his manor-lord (mõisnik) in appreciation of a whistle -- called "pill" in Estonian -- that he made for the mõisnik. The "pill" had been carved from a birch-tree knot (or gnarl), called "pahk" in Estonian ("pachk", as the Germans spelled it at the time). In its genitive form, the word becomes “paha” in Estonian, so the name given to Tõnnis soon became PAHAPILL.

How long was there Pahapills living in the village that bears their name is not known either (when questioning the locals in August 2003, they indicated that no Pahapills were living there any more). However, quite a few live in a number of other villages of Mustjala County, and in its neighboring counties; some in Kuressaare, the Capital of Saaremaa, others in various communities on Estonian mainland. Some Pahapills now live in Sweden, Canada, USA and UK some perhaps elsewhere in the great wide world! For notes on how one of the Pahapill clan branches - that of "Tehna" Julius and Heleeene Pahapill - ended up leaving its root-homeland of Estonia, please refer to the article on their wartime Escape to Sweden” - Wartime Escape ; or in Estonian / eesti keeles -

The "Tehna" Julius and Heleene branch of the Pahapill clan, after living seven years in Sweden, emmigrated to Canada in 1951. They settled in Toronto, Ontario. Of the original immigrant-family of seven, the group now (May 10, 2006) numbers 61, including spouses and those who have passed away; presently, 47 live in Canada - in the Toronto area - and eight in the USA..

Some of the Pahapill family members living in Canada can be seen on a photograph taken at the family summer-home at Lake Simcoe, on Thanksgiving Day in 1979  -  to see the the picture, please Click here! . On the picture, from left, are sitting: "Mamma" Heleene with Fors's daughter Lena, "Papa" Julius, son Fors (Forselius); standing, from left are: Anne's daughter Lisa, Fors's daughter Lori, Fors's wife Kristi, their daughter Leigh Anne, John's wife Kristi, their son Carl, Raimund's daughter Erika, son Raimund, visitor from Tallinn - cousin Jüri, Fors's son Thomas, John's son Eric, daughter Anne, Fors's son Tim (Timothey), Carl's wife Jennifer. Missing from the picture: Raimund's wife Ivi and their sons Alar and Peter, Anne's husband Dennis and their son Duane, son John (Johannes) - he is taking the picture with cousin Jüri's camera. Copy of picture provided by Jüri, via Anne.

Back to the clan's early years. Available records indicate that, in the mid-1700s, there was a farm (“talu”) in the Mustjala County (the same county where Tõnnis’ “Pahapilli küla" is situated), with the twin name of “Aadama / Pahapilli talu”, indicating that the farm had been founded by or owned earlier by a man called Aadam, born at an homestead named Pahapill. The “Aadama / Pahapilli talu” was situated and is presently (but it is now called “Aadama talu”) in the village of Võhma, a few kilometers south of Tõnnis’ home in “Pahapilli küla”.

Even though the available records for the period in question are somewhat sketchy, the name of the farm (talu) does suggest that a descendant of the Tõnnis-era Pahapills founded it, so the farm was given the name of its early owner. The records also show (ref. Part II of Note 4) that the name of the owner of this farm in the mid-1700s was a man called “Pahapilli Jüri” (meaning: Jüri of the Pahapill farm). Later, the owner of this farm was his son Laas. Between them, they owned and farmed the "Aadama / Pahapilli" lands for better part of the second half of 1700s. However, Laas and his wife Mare had no children, nor did his father Jüri leave other surviving descendants. Laas, who died relatively young, left his widow to own and look after the farm by herself (with outside help, of course). 

After her husband’s death (1819), Mare by then the sole owner of the Aadama / Pahapilli farm -- married (1820) KARL of Kure (from the village of Tõru, of the neighboring ELME manor ("mõis") district). Through his marriage to Mare, Karl -- son of  “Kure” Peeter (1768-1815) became owner of the farm and was given the family name of PAHAPILL. Accordingly, the present Pahapills are descendants of “Kure/Aadama” Karl Pahapill (1789-1831) and his wife Mare (1786-1866). Even though blood-link between the present-day Pahapills and descendents of Tõnnis Pahapill of the mid-1600s seems to have been broken in the early 1800s, their family name appears to originate from that era and from Tõnnis.  

“Aadama” Karl Pahapill and his wife Mare had two sons: JÜRI (1825~1900) and LAAS (1828-1880). As was the custom at the time, elder son Jüri stayed at Aadama and married, and eventually inherited the farm; he and his wife have numerous known descendants. His younger brother Laas moved out from his birth-home to marry Reet Trepp (1834-1880) of the nearby TEHNA farm (talu), a few kilometers south of the Aadama / Pahapilli talu. Tehna is situated in the heart of the village of Võhma, found on the previously noted Mustjala County Tourist map - Mustjala Map - and is situated around the points 3, 4 and 5 on the map. In due course, Laas inherited the Tehna farm; he and his wife Reet have a large number of descendants. For more information on the descendents of “Aadama” Jüri Pahapill and “Tehna” Laas Pahapill, please refer to the Introductory Notes of the Pahapill Family Book, found in the “Books” section of the family tree website, and to the Pahapill Family Tree as a whole: website Pahapill Family Tree.   

Sources of information used

1.   "Eesti Entsüklopeedia" 1994, part 7, pg. 139. 

From memory - based on discussions with my late father a few years prior to his passing away. Also, from my discussion with Meinhard Pahapill (a descendant of "Ilpama" Toomas Pahapill (of the P2.3 branch of the Pahapill Family Tree), in Tallinn, Estonia during the Summer of 1996. 

General: From various discussions with my public school classmate Evald Alt, grandson of "Tuiu" Aadu Pahapill (of the P1.3 branch of Pahapill Family Tree), at his summer-home in Järve, Saaremaa, around the mid-summertime in 1994 and 1995. Also, from my notes taken when viewing some of the available files on the Pahapills at the “Saaremaa Perekonnaseisuamet”, in Kuressaare, Estonia, in August 2004.

Part I: The 11.11.2004 Research Report by "Eesti Isikuloo Keskus" (Estonian Biographical Centre), Tartu, Estonia. Part II: The 06.05.2005 follow-up report to the previous part. (John Johannes Pahapill commissioned the research for these reports).


Prepared by John Johannes Pahapill -- eldest grandson of "Tehna" Taavi Pahapill and Mare Ang Pahapill – great-grandson of Taavi’ s father "Tehna" Laas Pahapill and Reet Trepp.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada -- May 31, 2005 (updated May 10, 2006).